A team of students from the University of Pennsylvania built an upper body exoskeleton system that very well could deliver on some of the promises made by Adm. William McRaven, U.S. Special Operations Command chief, to deliver a suit to special operators similar to the one worn by Iron Man.
The team led by Nick Parrotta, Elizabeth Beattie, Niko Vladimirovm and Nick McGill built what's called the Titan Arm as part of the James Dyson design competition. The students said they chose to build the upper-body exoskeleton because they saw plenty of lower body exoskeletons, not not many for the upper-body.
The Titan Arm was hardly designed with a soldier or special operator in mind. However, it does offer a 40-pound boost of strength and offers a vision into the realm of the possible.
McRaven said he wants military engineers to build an Iron Man suit that would help special operators kick down doors and repel bullets. A protective exoskeleton is part of that vision.
The Army is similarly doing research into exoskeletons in order to help protect soldiers skeletal structures that took a beating in Iraq and Afghanistan hauling 100-plus pound rucks these past ten years.
Rather than combat, the students designed the upper body system to help those rehabilitating upper body injuries. Of course troops could also benefit from this technology as many lost the normal use of their upper body to severely broken bones, nerve damage and even the loss of a limb.
UPenn's team is the first American students to win the competition. For their efforts, they received a $45,000 grand prize.